One of the goals of the FIGS program is develop strong leaders that will go on to contribute to the academic community at Rutgers and beyond. We are delighted to recognize one of our distinguished alumni, Luis Leyva, who graduated from Rutgers in May 2016 with a PhD in Mathematics Education and a Graduate Certificate in Women’s and Gender Studies. Luis was a 2015 National Academy of Education/Spencer Foundation Dissertation Fellow whose doctoral dissertation project documents the gendered and racialized forms of success among undergraduate African American and Latin@ students pursuing mathematics-intensive STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) majors at a large, public four-year university. He will be going on to Vanderbilt University – Peabody College of Education and Human Development where he has been awarded a tenure-track faculty position as Assistant Professor of Mathematics Education.
Luis has been a FIGS alumnus in more ways than one. As a first-year undergraduate student in the fall 2006 semester, Luis enrolled in a FIGS Health and Medicine course and was forever changed by the decision. He has continually highlighted the importance of taking a FIGS as a first-generation college student and credits the program with helping him to successfully navigate Rutgers. Luis states that FIGS helped him tap into academic advising resources, join different student organizations, and apply to on-campus jobs that applied to his future career as a mathematics educator and scholar.
Having benefitted so much from his FIGS experience, Luis stated that he wanted to “pay it forward” by serving as a Peer Instructor in the fall of 2009. In his Exploring Education course Luis taught an engaging class of 25 students about different perspectives in education and strategies in leading a well-balanced Rutgers student lifestyle. Having graduated with a BA from Rutgers in 2010, Luis returned to the FIGS program again as a Graduate Curriculum Development Coordinator as he was embarking on his graduate studies. Serving in this position in 2011 and again in 2014, Luis utilized his FIGS course planning skills to advise new Peer Instructors’ development of syllabi and weekly lesson plans.
Luis additionally credits the FIGS program with helping him develop skills that he applied to his subsequent work in the Rutgers community as an educator and mentor across STEM support programs including the NSF-funded STEM Talent Expansion Program and Upward Bound Math-Science. He states that his professional background in FIGS and these other initiatives inspired him to create academic work that engaged in answering questions about undergraduate STEM student success among first-generation and underrepresented populations and the institutional impact of student support programs in higher education on these groups.
We are proud of the important work that Luis has contributed to academia and the Rutgers community. He is an excellent example of how FIGS can impact students in the classroom and beyond. We wish him nothing but success at Vanderbilt and thank him for his years of contribution to the FIGS program. Congratulations, Luis!